17 Feb 2016

Fixing unreliable TalkTalk DNS

My home internet connection is provided by TalkTalk. I have their medium fibre package. If I had to rate the service out of 10, I’d give it 5 (and even then only just). The consistency isn’t great, the DNS is flakey and TalkTalk keep getting hacked (see here, here and here) meaning I deal with an increasing number of spam calls. Good points are that the service is relatively cheap, and works fine most of the time.

One of those issues is solvable fairly easily—unreliable DNS. The situation usually manifests itself when no web pages are loading, but logging into your router shows everything is OK. This is often technically true, though frustrating as it doesn’t appear to be true if web pages won’t load!

How can you tell if the issue is DNS related or something else? Use ping to test connectivity to a known available IP address (e.g. a public DNS server, such as Google’s then a domain name that needs resolution that is very likely to be available (e.g. mail.google.com). If the ping command is successful for the IP address but not for the domain name then it is likely a DNS issue.

My solution to this is to avoid using TalkTalk’s DNS servers, instead using Google’s own free DNS servers. Their DNS servers are available on IP addresses and Why Google’s DNS servers? No particular reason, but those IP addresses are easy to remember.

Rather than update the DNS servers on each individual device connected to your network there is a better way, update it on the router itself. Your TalkTalk router will provide a set of recommended DNS servers to all the devices connected to your local network (using DHCP). This means changes to the router settings will automatically propagate to the relevant devices. Well, assuming you have a semi-standard network configuration.

Step-by-Step Guide

Note, the instructions are based on the TalkTalk router model I have access to at the time of writing, which is a Huawei HG635.

  • Login to the web administration interface of the router.
  • Select ‘Internet’ from the top navigation bar
  • Select ‘Internet Connection’ from the side bar
  • Select ‘edit’
  • At the very bottom of this form is a checkbox to use ‘static DNS’. Selecting this will reveal two additional text boxes where you can enter the IP addresses of the DNS servers you wish to use. This is where we need to enter our new DNS servers, and
  • Hit save and you’re done!
Dev TalkTalk
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